Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why the US Needs India's Air Force ... my take on US-India military ties ... in today's The Diplomat


Here's an article of mine on US-India military ties, arguing for greater engagement between the Indian Air Force and the US Air Force. This has been published today as the lead article in The Diplomat.

Until now, the flag-bearers of U.S.-Indian military cooperation have been the two countries’ navies, a point that was highlighted during the response to the 2005 tsunami and subsequent reconstruction operations. In contrast, while there have been some joint exercises between their two air forces, the rationale for air force-to-air force cooperation appears to be neither understood nor appreciated in either capital.



During his visit to India last November, U.S. President Barack Obama characterized relations with India as “one of the defining and indispensable partnerships of the 21st century.” Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, in turn, stated that India had “decided to accelerate the deepening of our ties and to work as equal partners in a strategic relationship that will positively and decisively influence world peace, stability and progress.” Arguing that cooperation extended to India’s immediate neighborhood, Singh said the two countries “have a shared vision of security, stability and prosperity in Asia based on an open and inclusive regional architecture.”

But if the bilateral relationship really as is important as the two leaders suggest, then there’s undoubtedly a need for greater strategic synergy. In particular, the two countries’ militaries need to understand each other better if they are to work together for regional and global peace.

Until now, the flag-bearers of U.S.-Indian military cooperation have been the two countries’ navies, a point that was highlighted during the response to the 2005 tsunami and subsequent reconstruction operations. In contrast, while there have been some joint exercises between their two air forces, the rationale for air force-to-air force cooperation appears to be neither understood nor appreciated in either capital.

Indian strategic planners seem to be in broad agreement with their U.S. counterparts in identifying the big strategic challenges in the Asia-Pacific region, yet New Delhi has been reluctant to develop joint approaches in addressing many of these challenges.

The hope is, of course, that even if India is hesitant now, that it may change its mind over the next decade. After all, India’s interests, and its incapacity to address the challenges it faces on its own, seem bound to drive it towards the United States and Asian partners such as Japan and Australia.

Certainly, former U.S. President George W. Bush saw India as a significant pole in Asia, and close ties with India as being in U.S. interests – something that the Obama administration also seems to have recognized. Such views have prompted the United States to develop more formal defense cooperation and to talk about India in terms reserved for U.S. allies (something that causes some discomfort in New Delhi).

The most frequently cited reason for Washington’s interest in India is as a balancer to China, but this view is more complicated than many assume. For a start, the United States has a stake in the ongoing Sino-Indian border dispute. Although the U.S. is yet to take a position on the broader boundary and territorial dispute between the two countries, it certainly wouldn’t be in the interests of the United States to see a conflict break out – and especially to see India lose face in a military confrontation. China decided to teach India a lesson in their brief war in 1962. If this were repeated today, though, the U.S. would also be adversely affected as India’s perceived value as a regional ally would be diminished. A Chinese victory would also raise the question in the minds of smaller states over what hope they have in standing up to China if the United States stood by and watched as a major ally such as India was picked on. Such worries would undoubtedly undermine the United States’ position in Asia, and make China’s neighbors more susceptible to coercion.

But it’s not just about the negatives – India’s airpower can help underpin U.S. Pacific forces indirectly. For a start, a strong Indian Air Force would likely prompt China to focus at least part of its air power away from the Pacific and on the Tibet region. In addition, the Indian Air Force could also tip the scales in the Indo-Pacific by reducing the burden on the U.S. Air Force and providing security in the global commons. For instance, with a single air refueling, India’s SU-30MKI’s combat radius can include either the Straits of Malacca or the Persian Gulf.

Of course, it’s an open question whether India is willing to take such proactive steps. But co-operating more with the United States will help India feel more comfortable with future joint operations.

The reality is that both countries’ air forces face common threats, meaning it would benefit both to share data on a more regular basis and plan joint responses to any problems. The Indian Air Force, for instance, faces threats in its Northeastern sector similar to those facing the United States in the Western Pacific, namely ballistic missiles, advanced integrated air defense systems (IADS), 4th and 5th generation fighters, and increasingly sophisticated Chinese air-to-air missile and electronic warfare capabilities. All these developments increasingly impinge on both India and the United States, and it makes sense for the two to boost co-operation and learn lessons from each other’s experiences in the region.

Similarly, given the growing trend of India procuring U.S. weapons and equipment, greater engagement between their air forces would be particularly beneficial. Joint operations on democracy promotion, humanitarian missions, post disaster management and reconstruction are all ideal areas for joint operations.

But for any of this to occur, India must first recognize the potential for it to become a net provider of constructive airpower in the Indian Ocean Region. If India’s procurement plans go as planned, it could have a modern air force that will be highly capable of anything from disaster relief and humanitarian assistance to providing lethal combat air support.

At the end of the day, if India wants to sit at the high table of international diplomacy, it should be prepared to shoulder greater responsibilities and shed its risk averse foreign policy. Ramping up its air force co-operation seems a good place to start.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

EU Code of Conduct: Response from India and other Asian countries ....


Here's an article by Michael Listner on the EU Code of Conduct and some of the Indian concerns, published yesterday by the Space Review. He has also cited my recent Occasional Paper on the subject.

The article says, "There has been no official comment to the response on the CoC from the international community outside of the European Union and the United States. However, open source material suggests that countries in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular India, have several concerns about the CoC, which could prevent them from adopting the measure."



There has been much debate in 2011 over the draft version of the European Union’s proposed Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (the CoC), released in October 2010. Since its release, the CoC has been analyzed by policy experts in several different forums including a panel discussion at the George Marshall Institute as well as the pages of this publication.1 Little has been said publically since the flurry of analysis in the first half of the year due in no small part to the State Department and other branches of the United States government’s review of the CoC in lieu of formal adoption by the United States.

Countries in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular India, have several concerns about the CoC, which could prevent them from adopting the measure.
The FAA’s Commercial Space Transportation Advisory Committee’s Space Transportation Operations Working Group (STOWG) met on August 4, 2011, and featured an update on the CoC by Richard Buenneke, Senior Advisor, Space Policy for the US Department of State.2 At that time Mr. Bunneke informed STOWG that the CoC was under review by the Department of Defense and that the United States remained interested in the CoC, but it was not prepared to sign the document in 2011. According to Mr. Bunneke, the European Council continued to present the CoC to the international community for consideration. The CoC was slated for adoption in 2012, but that deadline has been pushed back indefinitely.

There has been no official comment to the response on the CoC from the international community outside of the European Union and the United States. However, open source material suggests that countries in the Asia Pacific Region, in particular India, have several concerns about the CoC, which could prevent them from adopting the measure.

Indian concerns with the CoC
Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, India, presented an occasional paper in October 2011 discussing the CoC and India’s perspectives on it.3 Dr. Rajagopalan’s paper presents concerns that India and the Asian nations have with the current form of the CoC and whether those can concerns can be addressed to their satisfaction. Six fundamental concerns can be discerned from Dr. Rajagopalan’s dissertation: the non-binding nature of the CoC, repetition of and intrusion into a country’s domestic space policies, the failure of the EU to consult Asian countries when drafting the CoC, failure of the CoC to address the geopolitical realities of the Asian sphere of influence, ambiguity of terms and phrases within the CoC, and administration of the CoC. Each of these are briefly addressed below.

India’s prominent concern with the EU’s approach is the CoC’s lack of a legally binding mechanism, which is a long-standing requirement of some of the Asian counties. India takes the position that in order to be workable, the CoC requires a legal framework, an enforcement and verification mechanism, and a penalty mechanism for countries violating the CoC. The lack of legally binding measures is seen by the Asian countries as a weakness that will undermine and eventually defeat the CoC’s purpose.

Associated with the concern that the CoC is not legally binding is its voluntary nature and that its precepts replicate existing policies. Most of the principles and guidelines proposed in the CoC already exist either in the national space policies of some of the countries involved with the CoC or in bilateral and multilateral transparency and confidence building measures (TCBMs). Suggesting that countries adopt policies consistent with the CoC may also be considered an intrusion to the domestic policy-making of countries, who are already developing policies on their own initiative.

Another concern of India is EU’s omission to consult with India and the other Asian nations when the CoC was devised. This lapse is considered enough to preclude India and the other Asian countries from signing on to an otherwise acceptable instrument. India considers the inclusion of the spacefaring nations of Asia to be a crucial element during the creation of the CoC, especially considering that the fastest growing space programs are among the Asian countries, and it is among those countries where most new challenges relating to outer space will materialize.

Related to the India’s concern of exclusion in the creation of the CoC is the viewpoint that it is essential that the EU and the Western nations address the realities of geopolitics in the Asia-Pacific region. These considerations will prescribe suggestions from India and the Asian nations to amend the CoC, and not the other way around. The geopolitical realities of the Asia-Pacific region would translate into new terms and conditions in the CoC that are not currently within it, but what those interests are varies among the Asian nations, which could further complicate amendment to the CoC.

Amendments to the CoC could fundamentally alter its nature and estrange Western countries, such as the United States, from adopting it.
The ambiguous manner by which the CoC is written is another concern for India. Many phrases within the CoC are open to interpretation, and while phrases and terms contained within the current draft of the CoC may be interpreted one way by the members of the EU or the United States, those same phrases and terms could be construed in a different manner by Asian countries, including India. This concern is magnified by the possibility that countries with substantial diplomatic and political clout such as the United States or China could dictate how vague sections are interpreted to the detriment of countries such as India.

Finally, the question of who will administer the CoC once it is implemented is a prominent one in the eyes of India. India views administration of the CoC as feasible only by an authority that has the benefit of ample hard power and diplomatic clout. However, India sees the EU, which would be the likely choice as the administering authority of the CoC, as lacking in both these qualities. This calls into question the effectiveness of the CoC from India’s point of view.

Impact of Asian concerns
The concerns enunciated by Dr. Rajagopalan and the alterations to the CoC that India and the other Asian countries may seek before signing are the type that panelists hosted by the George Marshall Institute expressed concern about when asked whether the United States should adopt the CoC. During that discussion, the panelists were all of the opinion that the United States should not sign onto the CoC until other countries recommend their changes to CoC, perhaps explaining why the United States has delayed indefinitely its adoption of the instrument.4

Beyond the concerns that India and the Asian countries have articulated about the CoC, there is the issue of whether those concerns can be addressed by amendment of the CoC without altering its nature and structure. Amendments to the CoC could fundamentally alter its nature and estrange Western countries, such as the United States, from adopting it. For example, if the CoC was transformed from a non-binding confidence-building measure to a legally binding international accord, the United States may object and refuse to adopt it since signing it would implicate its national space policy with regard to signing onto outer space security treaties.

Continuing to persuade the PRC to accept measures such as the CoC is futile and will only make the process of persuading others to adopt such measures more difficult.
There is also the issue of the stance the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has taken with certain precepts of the CoC. In particular, the PRC has taken the position that the issue of orbital space debris should not be included in the CoC. The PRC also objects to the CoC’s insistence that states who adopt the CoC share information on their domestic national space policies, including objectives for security and defense related activities. There is little chance the PRC’s “no” will turn to a “yes” on these two issues, so the EU is faced with the option of diminishing the CoC to accommodate the PRC or having the PRC refuse to adopt the accord. If the success of the CoC is dependent on the PRC adopting it, then the EU could be disappointed.

How any amendment of the CoC to address Indian and other Asian concerns will impact US national space policy is also a concern. US diplomatic efforts are presently focused on addressing outer space security issues through redefined and repurposed TCBMs instead of legally-binding treaties.5 The current US interest in the CoC—effectively a TCBM—is one path of that policy, with a more robust effort intended for engaging other countries via the United Nations. Many of the concerns articulated by India about the CoC can apply equally to the planned application of TCBMs in the UN and effectively derail the United State’s effort should those concerns be amended into the CoC.

Alternative approaches
The EU is faced with the possibility that the CoC in its current form will not accommodate the concerns of the Asian countries without substantially altering the nature of the instrument. This possibility is not lost on India, and one of India’s considerations, aside from adopting the CoC, is to develop a code of their own. Such a code could take a similar form to the CoC and would address a significant portion of the concerns enunciated by India and the Asian countries, with the bonus of having an indigenous accord reflecting Asian interests instead of an instrument drafted from the viewpoint of Western geopolitics. It is plausible that such a code could coexist with the CoC. The dual-code approach could parallel each other in some areas and distinguish themselves to address issues that are relevant to their respective geopolitical and security situations.

Another alternative that could allow for a greater integration of Asian concerns into the CoC is for the EU and the United States to face the reality that the PRC is not going to acquiesce to the precepts of the CoC nor will it ever adopt it. This assertion is highlighted by Dean Cheng, Research Fellow for Asian Studies at the Heritage Foundation, where he dispels the myth that the PRC is interested in cooperation in space by noting that the PRC is engaged with a power competition with the United States, and space is a major venue of that competition. The upshot of this is that the PRC is unlikely to be swayed by proposals of codes of conduct or symbolic meetings with space officials from the United States.6

Policymakers from the EU and the United States would do well to face this reality, particularly in the context of the CoC. Continuing to persuade the PRC to accept measures such as the CoC is futile and will only make the process of persuading others to adopt such measures more difficult. If the EU and the US are serious about adopting the CoC, they must acknowledge that the PRC has no intention of engaging in good faith negotiations over the CoC and instead focus their efforts on addressing the concerns of countries such as India, which has a better chance of reaching consensus with the EU on its own absent the presence of the PRC at the negotiating table.

It is plausible that the current form of the CoC may not be able to accept amendment without substantially altering it.
Beyond TCBMs, including measures such as the CoC, an effective way to establish a “code of conduct” is through legally binding agreements. This author postulated shortly after the collision of Iridium 33 and Cosmos 2251 in February 2009 that bilateral accords defining conduct for outer space activities would be an effective means of preventing incidents in outer space more so than a treaty banning “space weapons.”7 Accords defining conduct have been implemented in maritime law and have opened a line of dialogue between the parties that have prevented incidents and subsequent escalations that could have led to full-blown confrontations.

Applying this concept to outer space activities would differentiate itself from the CoC and the current approach to TCBMs by the United States. Since these agreements would be legally binding, countries such as India would be more inclined to enter them, and it would eliminate the objection of the Russian Federation likely to leveled at the current track of United States space policy. Bilateral treaties negotiated between two countries would also avoid the multiplicity of converging cultural and geopolitical differences encountered during the negotiation of multilateral accords, and they could be tailored to satisfy the national space policy’s requirement that any treaties be equitable and verifiable.

Conclusion
Whether the CoC is ultimately adopted depends in no small measure how it originators address the concerns of India and the Asian nations. It is plausible that the current form of the CoC may not be able to accept amendment without substantially altering it. If that is the case, the EU and United States must resist the impulse to strong-arm these nations into otherwise adopting the CoC. Alternatively, if the concerns of India and other Asian nations cannot be addressed within the framework of the CoC, then the EU and the United States need to be prepared to consider measures other than the CoC to address security and cooperation in outer space.

Footnotes
1 Jeff Foust, “Debating a code of conduct for space”, The Space Review, March 7, 2011.

2 Michael Listner, “Update on the proposed European Code of Conduct”, The Space Review, August 8, 2011.

3 Dr. Rajeswari Rajagopalan, Debate on Space Code of Conduct: An Indian Perspective, Observer Research Foundation, ORF Occasional Paper #26, October 2011.

4 “Codes of Conduct in Space: Considering the Impact of the EU Code on U.S. Security in Space.”, George Marshall Institute, February 4, 2011.

5 Michael Listner, “TCBMs: A New Definition and New Role for Outer Space Security”, Defense Policy.Org, July 7, 2011.

6 Dean Cheng, “Five Myths About China’s Space Program”, The Heritage Foundation, September 29, 2011.

7 Michael Listner, “A bilateral approach from maritime law to prevent incidents in space”, The Space Review, February 16, 2009.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Shared Goals, Converging Interests: A Plan for U.S.-Australia-India Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific: A Joint Report from Heritage, Lowy & ORF


Here's a quick synopsis of "Shared Goals, Converging Interests: A Plan for U.S.-Australia-India Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific" is a joint project report from the Heritage Foundation, the Lowy Institute for International Policy and the ORF, launched at the Lowy today and going to be launched at the ORF on November 07. The report has six authors -- Lisa Curtis, Walter Lohman, Rory Medcalf, Lydia Powell, Andrew Shearer -- including me.

The U.S., Australia, and India face common challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific region that are defined by their shared values and interests. These include sea-lane security, counterterrorism, nonproliferation, among others. A formal trilateral dialogue gives these three countries an opportunity to understand and act together to address current and future challenges more effectively. Such an attempt to arrive at a mutual understanding of each others' concerns will help promote the Indo-Pacific as an area conducive to economic and political stability, security, free and open trade and democratic governance.



For the full report, click here.